Law without Nations?

Law without Nations?: Why Constitutional Government Requires Sovereign States

Jeremy A. Rabkin
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 360
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7sr22
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  • Book Info
    Law without Nations?
    Book Description:

    What authority does international law really have for the United States? When and to what extent should the United States participate in the international legal system? This forcefully argued book by legal scholar Jeremy Rabkin provides an insightful new look at this important and much-debated question.

    Americans have long asked whether the United States should join forces with institutions such as the International Criminal Court and sign on to agreements like the Kyoto Protocol. Rabkin argues that the value of international agreements in such circumstances must be weighed against the threat they pose to liberties protected by strong national authority and institutions. He maintains that the protection of these liberties could be fatally weakened if we go too far in ceding authority to international institutions that might not be zealous in protecting the rights Americans deem important. Similarly, any cessation of authority might leave Americans far less attached to the resulting hybrid legal system than they now are to laws they can regard as their own.

    Law without Nations?traces the traditional American wariness of international law to the basic principles of American thought and the broader traditions of liberal political thought on which the American Founders drew: only a sovereign state can make and enforce law in a reliable way, so only a sovereign state can reliably protect the rights of its citizens. It then contrasts the American experience with that of the European Union, showing the difficulties that can arise from efforts to merge national legal systems with supranational schemes. In practice, international human rights law generates a cloud of rhetoric that does little to secure human rights, and in fact, is at odds with American principles, Rabkin concludes.

    A challenging and important contribution to the current debates about the meaning of multilateralism and international law,Law without Nations?will appeal to a broad cross-section of scholars in both the legal and political science arenas.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2660-5
    Subjects: Law, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[viii])
  3. CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION: BY OUR OWN LIGHTS
    (pp. 1-17)

    For some months following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, pundits affirmed that the event had irrevocably changed America and the world. Subsequent events proved that changes in America and changes in the world were far from symmetrical. Perhaps there was not even that much change.

    Nations, like individuals, may respond in new ways when confronted with new challenges. But even new responses are shaped by old habits of thought and established patterns of conduct. American political ideals have often differed from those embraced by people in western Europe. Differing responses to the challenge of international terrorism simply highlighted...

  4. CHAPTER TWO GLOBAL GOVERNANCE OR CONSTITUTIONAL GOVERNMENT?
    (pp. 18-44)

    In 1917,“world war” was a new term. And it was still a somewhat hyperbolic term, even after the United States entered the “Great War” (as it had previously been called). The First World War remained largely centered in Europe and its environs.

    By 1945, the Second World War had brought carnage and destruction to four continents. In this war, nations of the western hemisphere, too, had been drawn, much more fully than before, into a connected web of conflicts, raging simultaneously on opposite sides of the world. The experience of war on this scale spurred ambitious postwar plans for securing...

  5. CHAPTER THREE THE CONSTITUTIONAL LOGIC OF SOVEREIGNTY
    (pp. 45-70)

    For enthusiasts of global governance, sovereignty seems an annoying anachronism. And when it comes to dismissing anachronisms, the older the better. So, many people assume that sovereignty must be connected with medieval notions of kingship.

    But it isn’t. The term only gained wide currency in the seventeenth century—that is, at the outset of the Enlightenment. And it is closely connected with Enlightenment thought.

    Many people assume that sovereignty is connected with claims to total power. It isn’t. Its central meaning, historically, is the power to enact and enforce laws. This is precisely the power that a modern state exercises...

  6. CHAPTER FOUR THE ENLIGHTENMENT AND THE LAW OF NATIONS
    (pp. 71-97)

    In a world where sovereign states are fully sovereign, there might seem to be no room for international law. If each state makes its own law for its own territory, how can there be a law that embraces all states? At least since the seventeenth century, scoffers have pressed such skeptical arguments with much intellectual force. Even governments committed to the rule of law at home have often given at least one ear to these arguments.

    The American Founders did not embrace this skeptical view, however. They endorsed a different view in the very act of asserting American sovereignty. The...

  7. CHAPTER FIVE DIPLOMACY OF INDEPENDENCE
    (pp. 98-129)

    In the era of global governance, the United States has frequently seemed to be the odd man out. It takes part in negotiations for great new projects—an international criminal court, global controls on carbon use, global protections for women and for children and for endangered species of plants and animals. And then the United States declines to sign or ratify the resulting international convention. To the fury of many Europeans, the United States seems to treat international negotiations as an a la carte menu, from which it can take the tasty bits and leave the rest to spoil.

    Critics...

  8. CHAPTER SIX A WORLD SAFE FOR EUROGOVERNANCE
    (pp. 130-157)

    Several factors encouraged enthusiasts to place unprecedented hopes in an expanded version of international law during the 1990s. It would be not just a series of accommodations between states, at the margins of policy, but a system of standards and controls reaching inside every state. Germany’s foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, called it “global domestic law.”¹ Among the factors that made it seem plausible to many people was that within Europe itself, national sovereignty seemed to have been merged into a supranational framework. The European experience seemed to prove that this was possible. As many Europeans saw it, European experience was...

  9. CHAPTER SEVEN THE HUMAN RIGHTS CRUSADE
    (pp. 158-192)

    International protection for human rights is the central pillar of current ambitions toward global governance. It is the ultimate moral trump card in debates about the proper reach of international law. Sovereignty? “It can’t be absolute in today’s world,” say believers in global governance. “That would mean governments are free to abuse the human rights of their own people!” For the sake of human rights, we must have a law that guarantees the rights of individuals and not just the rights of sovereign states.

    Then again, if international law can guarantee the human rights of individuals, why should it not...

  10. CHAPTER EIGHT IS SOVEREIGNTY TRADED IN TRADE AGREEMENTS?
    (pp. 193-232)

    Calls for improving global governance were a stock theme of political discussion in the 1990s—as if governing the world were a quite straight-forward project. The project looks vastly more difficult today. For many advocates, that is all the more reason to redouble efforts to strengthen international institutions and international norms.

    Even in the more carefree world of the 1990s, however, global governance meant very different things to different enthusiasts. For some, it was a call to high ideals, a demand for international reinforcement of universal ideals, disdaining political boundaries as selfish. For many others, the slogan implied a readiness...

  11. CHAPTER NINE AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE AND THE OPINIONS OF MANKIND
    (pp. 233-270)

    American independence was launched with a Declaration. That Declaration began by acknowledging that Americans were obliged to justify their claim to independence: “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to the separation.”

    But the very sentence that acknowledges this obligation also recognizes, by its phrasing, the inevitable limits on politics by persuasion. It is part of that “decent respect” to notice that “mankind” has more than one view. The “opinions of mankind” may, in fact, be quite diverse. So claims to independence from the rest of mankind should be...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 271-344)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 345-350)